You might not know
What you may not have known
The symbolic degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow craft, and Master Mason, as conferred in the United States, are degrees of the York Rite.
York Rite Masonry is the oldest and best known of all Masonic Rites. It takes its name from York, England, where the earliest known record of Masonry exists, dating from about A.D. 923. Masonry’s first written record is centered around York, the seat of the Ancient York Grand Lodge. In 1813, this Grand Lodge merged with another group called the Modern Grand Lodge, to form the United Grand Lodge of England. This is the basis upon which our present system of Symbolic Lodge (Blue Lodge) Masonry is built.
You, as a Master Mason, have received the first three degrees of the York Rite. Having begun your Masonic work in the York Rite, it is natural that you should want to continue with it and fill in what was left out of the first three degrees, as they are incomplete.
According to Masonic legend, every man raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason received a “substitute word”, as the “true word” was lost. It may prove a surprise to the average blue lodge mason, believing his work is completed, to be told that the secrets pertaining to the ceremony will not be given to him! This is unfortunate, but the veil is lifted in the degree of the Royal Arch, and in that degree only. Hence, no man actually becomes a true Master Mason until he is exalted in the Holy Royal Arch degree and he learns the "secret word" of a Master Mason.
Some would have the newly raised Master Mason (3rd Degree) believe that he can receive the secrets and word in a degree other than the Royal Arch. This is not true, historically or otherwise. The mother Grand Lodge of England was so emphatic regarding the necessity of the Royal Arch degree that many years ago, it set forth the following as Paragraph One (1) of its Laws and Regulations:
“By the solemn act of the union between the two Grand Lodges of Freemasons of England in December, 1813, it was declared and pronounced that Pure Ancient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, viz: those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow craft, and the Master Mason, INCLUDING THE SUPREME ORDER OF THE HOLY ROYAL ARCH.”
The wording in this document was not a mistake. It was intentionally stated in this way to let every Master Mason know that his education is not complete until he has completed the complete series of the York Rite. In that way, and only in that way, can he discover the rest of the story of Hiram Abiff.
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